A year from now, when Overton residents stop by their local library, it will be in a radically different setting than that of the previous 55 years.
In what could be best described as one man’s last gift to the hometown he loved, Ralph Ward Jr., longtime president of the Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation, worked tirelessly with Jann Smith, branch manager of the McMillan Memorial Library, to bring this project to fruition.
“We all have dreams, dreams for our own lives and dreams for our communities,” Ward told the Henderson Daily News last December after meeting with Rusk County Commissioners about the project. “This is just one of those dreams that I hope can become a reality for the people of Overton.”
Though Ward passed away earlier this year, his dream continues, and the project he helped lay the groundwork for has begun in earnest.
Work crews have already demolished the site of the former Calvary Baptist Church at 401 S. Commerce Street along the main thoroughfare of Overton, and foundation officials believe construction will take just under a year.
“As with any construction project you hope it gets done when you want it to get done,” said Todd Meadows, Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation president. “But we’re shooting for February 2012.”
The new facility is designed in the “Georgian” architectural style, complementing the foundation’s main offices just adjacent to the site.
“We think people will be impressed with how it looks,” Meadows said. “It’s going to be a great addition to the town.”
Inside, patrons will be treated to state-of-the-art library technology and sections that have been enhanced and expanded from the current location.
“The first thing they’ll notice is that it’s going to be considerably larger than the current library, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 square feet,” Meadows said. “It will also have a nice courtyard area where people can sit outside and read.
Additionally there will be a designated “program room” where groups can meet for events or other occasions.
“The room will have audio/visual equipment and other features,” Meadows said. “It should be a nice venue for any type of local program.”
By expanding into a larger facility, it also allows for further expansion in the distant future. An idea that was limited in the library’s current location.
“Yes, I think that might’ve limited the library in the past,” Meadows said. “But that shouldn’t be an issue in the future.”
As the funding is coming from a private foundation, the exact dollar amount of the project does not have to be released.
“It’s a lot,” Meadows added with a laugh. “But it’s something that the community will be able to enjoy and be proud of for generations to come.”
Not only that, but future generations will be able to remember the man who helped make this happen. One of the rooms will be designated the “Ralph Ward, Jr.” room and will contain some personal memorabilia.
The McMillan Memorial Library began as the Overton Public Library in 1934, in a small room in the Chamber of Commerce building. In 1937 Overton Public Library became affiliated with the Rusk County Library System.
In 1956 it became the McMillan Memorial Library in a dedication ceremony held by Dr. Bruce McMillan in memory of his wife, Mary Moore McMillan and his son, Bruce McMillan Jr. McMillan’s wish was that such a facility be built for the citizens of Overton and the surrounding area.
The Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation renovated the McMillan Library in 1972 adding a non-fiction reading room to the existing facility and renovated again in 1989.
Included in the last renovation was a larger parking area and adequate facilities for the handicapped.
The library essentially doubled in size with the addition of 1,783 square feet, which included a new “Bruce McMillan Jr. Children’s Reading Room” in memory of the foundation’s namesake and a new “W.P. Moore Research-Reference Room” in memory of Mrs. McMillan’s father.
For more information about this project or the foundation, contact Meadows at (903) 834-3148.